Thursday, December 17, 2015

We ARE the Vikings!

Sometimes, there just aren't any words to express how you feel, or your feelings are so big and so overpowering they just don't make words that big.  You know that whatever comes out, it's just not going to be enough.  Whenever I think of our community, it seems that way.  I am currently struggling with MacKale's shirt post, because I don't feel like I have the right words so it sits half finished.    And then this post feels much the same way.  I have so much to share, but conveying the magnitude of what I feel, is often a struggle.

Photo from Cadillac News

Mike wrote on his Facebook page: "What does it mean to make a difference . . . this is how you do it!"

When people ask what we need, we always say 'your prayers.'  But quite often, it is easier for other's to see what our needs are than for us.  This week, our Viking family, the athletic department, boosters, coaches, staff, students, fans and players of the boys' basketball teams knew exactly what MacKale and our family needed.

Coach Ryan Benzenberg
A couple of weeks ago, the Viking's varsity coach, Ryan Benzenberg, contacted me.   He relayed to me that his varsity team had been following MacKale's journey and was praying for our family.  They wanted to invite MacKale to be an honorary captain for the team at a home game in a couple of weeks.  Although it's always hit or miss how Mac will feel, we looked at his chemo calendar and based on the type of chemo he would be getting around that time, we thought the timing would be perfect.  He would be in between two doses of the 'lesser of two evils' chemo, and he usually felt pretty good.  It was a great event for him to look forward to . . . to work toward.  You don't realize how easy it is to just let life happen all around you when you are in cancer treatment.  You could easily take treatment behind your closed hospital door and when you come home simply sit and shut out the rest of the world.   But MacKale hasn't typically worked that way.  He loves these little goals to keep him moving forward.    So the basketball game was always in the front of his mind.  When we were in the hospital last week, he did everything he needed to do to get out in record time so he wouldn't miss it.  It was important to him.

What we couldn't anticipate was how hard a virus he picked up the first few days of December would be working on him.  He has literally been fighting it for nearly two weeks, and Monday night, it decided to rear it's ugly head in the form of a low-grade temperature.  Now a low grade temp to a normal kid is no big deal.  For a kid with a port in their chest, however, it can be a sign that there is a dangerous infection brewing.  We had to rule out a port infection so away we went to the hospital.  Usually a temp means that we will be heading back down to Devos for admission and Mac knew this.  He saw me packing our bags in anticipation.  He was, of course, devastated.  His disappointment weighed heavily on me, but through our tears of disappointment, we said a little prayer and headed into the ER to get blood draws and levels checked.

Our little prayer was answered, and  it ended up that there was no infection, his levels were very good and we could go home to sleep in our own beds.  He rested and felt pretty punky for most of the next day, but no temperature so he wanted to rally for the game that night.  I knew he wasn't feeling 100%, but I also knew, that unless he had a temperature, there would be no keeping him home.

And I'm so glad we made it, because not only were the Vikings in full Team MacKale gear, but all of the Ogemaw Heights players were too.

Falcon Coach Eric Spencer

You want to talk about a class act basketball team, the Falcons are it.  Coach Eric Spencer made it a point to come over and greet MacKale and our family.

From beginning to end . . . it was a magical night for all of us but especially for MacKale.

He was part of the captains meeting.
Captains and Referees Meet
And was able to sit right up front with the team to catch all the action.

Each time a player entered or exited the court, they made sure to acknowledge him and his brothers with a smile, a tap of the hat, or knuckles.

Those 'big high school boys' didn't have to . . . but they did it.  And my boys thought they were pretty awesome.

Just like their high school classmates didn't have to gear up in orange, but they did it.  And my boys thought those big kids were amazing.

With so much noise that pollutes our attention with negativity about kids today, I feel so compelled to tell you that I am proud to have my boys emulate and look up to these young Viking men and women. They were kind and generous with their time, and they made MacKale feel pretty incredible despite feeling pretty rotten physically.  It was selfless and genuine, and I know what a blessing they are.  That's something we can't take for granted in our community.  They are SUCH an amazing asset to have.

Viking #22, Tyler poses with MacKale.

So after the game was over, Mike and the boys were invited into the locker room for a little post game chant, and as I waited outside, a woman approached me and introduced herself.  She mentioned that her son's name was Matt Costello, and he plays for MSU's basketball team.  His cousin, Keagan,  plays for Cadillac, so he had heard about MacKale and was wondering if he could Face Time with him.  I'm not going to pretend that I knew who Matt Costello was at the time.  Honestly, I wasn't really confident that MacKale would know who he was either, but when MacKale came out from the locker room, Matt's mom approached Mac and said, 'My son Matt Costello plays for MSU and would like to Face Time with you.  Do you know who he is?'  Cool as a cucumber MacKale says, 'Yea, I know him.  He's number 10.'  Don't ask me where he stores this information, numbers and stats about players from sports, because it boggles my mind.  I just have no idea. But I do know who Matt is now, and I won't forget yet another young man that went out of his way to reach out to MacKale.
MacKale Face Times with Matt Costello.

The whole event was really so remarkably well thought out.  The organizers considered every detail to make it special, not only for MacKale, but for MaGill and McCoy and Mike and I as well. At one point I looked over at MaGill with his eyes as big as saucers and he just said 'Wow Mom.' McCoy said, 'I know!  Right! We are so blessed aren't we?" And then he said,   "Why are we so lucky?"

I don't have an answer for McCoy, but I know that he's absolutely right. . . despite everything, we are so very blessed because honestly . . . this level of support is nothing short of a miracle.   Many kids and families face cancer alone.  They don't have help, they don't have a school family or community to support them.  It's uncommon!  It's extraordinary!  It IS a blessing.  We see kids every week at the hospital that close their shades and hide away from the world, because, quite honestly, cancer treatment is horrible.  But MacKale is out there.  His shades are up.  He's interacting and smiling because "it takes less muscles." He's facing his journey head on . . . even on those days when he doesn't really feel like it and we have to pull him 70 % of the way and it's not an A+ effort,  he does it.  He does it not because he's better or braver or has some special personal quality that other kids do not possess.  He does it because he knows all of the amazing support that this community and his Viking family has given him through acts of kindness just like this special evening.  It has given him the confidence and the feeling of safety to know that he is not alone and that everyone IS praying and fighting with him.  It makes my heart swell with pride to be a teacher in this district.

And I know, adults often grumble and are disappointed with kids these days . . . But I'm telling you, when a community of students and their coaches and teachers come together to show a child that he is loved and supported, God is there, and we are blessed.  We know this road will not be easy.  It will be painful and difficult to watch MacKale go through the days ahead.  It will be so hard to watch MaGill and McCoy go through it as well, but we still have to believe that God will make something good from MacKale's journey.  And this is just one way . . . through these young people.  They are such a gift to our community.   And as for Mike and me (Viking Class of  '85--Yes we are really that old.) and MaGill, McCoy and MacKale, we have never been prouder to say, "We are the Vikings."

Please continue to pray for MacKale and especially pray that the chemo will successfully rid his body of the cancer for good.

A special thanks to Sue Donahue Baker, Deb Rensberry and Chris Huckle for allowing me to 'lift' their pictures to use in this post.


  1. You are part of such a wonderful community. Their love and compassion totally restores my faith in humanity. And the way MacKale finds the strength to rally, even when he feels so ill, is awe inspiring. Your sweet boy is a warrior and is clearly fighting with all he's got. I love how he has so much to focus on, things that have nothing to do with his illness. I have no doubt that he will come out of this an even better person than he already is. Kudos to MacKale and the entire McGuire family for teaching us how to face adversity with courage, strength, and faith.

  2. You have so many blessings and we love your whole family so much! I am thrilled to hear that your family had a much-needed wonderful night out together. It was the best medicine MacKale could ever receive. Sending all our love and prayers! Rob & Maria

  3. Yay Vikings! So proud of Cadillac. Big hugs to all three of your amazing boys (including Mike). MacKale continues to fight like a Viking. Hope you can have a calm Christmas. As always, we are praying for you.